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Serena Williams beats sister Venus

  |   July 6, 2002 at 2:28 PM
LONDON, July 6 (UPI) -- Serena Williams, who earlier took the No. 1 ranking from her older sister Venus, Saturday took her Wimbledon crown.

In their best match against each other, Serena outslugged Venus, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, in 78 minutes Saturday to claim her first singles title at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

By reaching the championship match, Serena rose to the top spot on the WTA Tour rankings for the first time and Saturday captured her third Grand Slam tournament. The 1999 U.S. Open champion beat Venus last month at the French Open. She is the first woman to win at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year since Steffi Graf did it in 1996.

"It was now or never because I was playing the two-times champion," said Serena after receiving the Ladies' trophy, the Venus Rosewater Dish. "It's hard to beat Venus here.

Serena is the first woman to win at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year since Steffi Graf did it in 1996. She also became the fourth active woman to claim three of the four majors in her career, joining Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis and Monica Seles.

"I wanted to win so bad, and I kept thinking to myself, `OK, Serena, just stay calm. She already has two Wimbledons. Try to fight,'" Serena said. "And I really played really good today. Venus, she didn't...her serve...her arm was a little tired."

Venus, the top seed, saw her winning streak at the All England Club end at 20 matches and lost her third straight match to Serena. She had won their first Grand Slam final meeting last September at the U.S. Open and leads the all-time matchup, 5-4.

"I would have liked to have won, but once again, too late," said Venus, who did not use a sore right shoulder as an excuse. "I just think that she just had a better shot. I think I played well, to be honest, and high-percentage tennis. She just was pressing and hitting a lot of foreceful shots."

The 22-year-old was visably upset after the match and was downcast during her press conference, a far cry from her attitude after losing the French Open, where she joined photographers and took pitchers of her sister with the championship trophy.

"It's not fun losing, no matter who you lose to," said Venus, who was trying to become the first woman to win three in a row here since Graf from 1991-93 and earn her fifth Grand Slam crown. "It's not something that I'm going to get used to or try to adjust to because I'm not one for losing often."

Previously, the matches between the Williams sisters have been flat, error-ridden affairs. The one-sided nature of Venus' semifinal victory over Serena here in 2000 prompted some to question the competitive quality of their meetings.

But the two have swatted aside the notion that the winners of their matches were prearranged and continued to warm up together before their encounters.

"It's not tough preparing for it, we just go out there," Serena said. "When I first walked out there, I was just thinking I wanted to win, but I was thinking also that my dad always said that one day we'll be playing in the finals of Wimbledon, in the finals of the U.S. Open, just the big ones. And here we were 10, 15 years later."

The American sisters have battled in three of the past four Grand Slams, the first times sisters met in a major final since the first-ever Wimbledon Ladies' singles final in 1884, when Maud Watson defeated older sister Lilian Watson in three sets.

Serena Williams, who missed the Australian Open with a sprained right ankle, became the first woman in the Open Era (before 1968) and the in tennis history to win the "Old World" -- taking the championships of Italy, France and England in the same season.

The 20-year-old won her fifth title in eight tournaments this season, also collecting victories at Scottsdale and Miami.

With both sisters pounding the ball, Serena ran Venus ragged, pushing her older sibling from side-to-side before blasting winners. Considering her sister's firepower, Venus used her long reach to keep alive points most players would have lost after just a few shots.

"She just was pressing and hitting a lot of foreceful shots," Venus said. "She was just tremendous today. I think that it wasn't a lot between us. But just on some points, she was getting some that I couldn't get. I'm glad that I can get to those balls, to be honest."

The two women exchanged breaks in the third and fourth games of the first set, before Serena broke in the sixth game with a backhand winner down the line. But Serena tightened when serving for the set, putting a cross-court backhand wide and driving a forehand into the net.

"I thought at that point Venus, she was playing really good at that point," Serena observed. "And I said, `Well, whatever happens, I'm going to go out here and I'm just going to fight and try to hold my own.' That's what I was thinking at that point."

After the set went to a tiebreaker, Serena gained a mini-break for a 5-3 lead with a running backhand passing shot down the line. After Venus netted a backhand, Serena nailed an ace to close out the first set in 44 minutes.

Venus almost fell behind, 0-2, in the second set but saved a pair of break points in the second game.

"When I was able to win the first set, I think I got a little lackadaisical, I got a little too satisfied," Serena said. "I think I had a chance to break her. I was up 30-love. And I just hit a couple of ridiculous shots. Then I said to myself, `You're going to be telling your grandkids about this day, how

you didn't take your opportunity.' So then that's when I decided I just needed to go ahead and take my opportunity."

In the sixth game Serena broke as Venus double faulted for break point before dumping a forehand into the net. Venus broke back right. Serena missed an easy high forehand volley at 30-30 before Venus hit a sharply angled crosscourt forehand return, and netted a backhand on break point.

But Venus could not tie the match and double faulted on break point in the eighth game. She hit a forehand long with her foe off the court and Serena hit three straight service winners to close out her 16th career tournament victory.

After winning match point, Serena dropped her racket to the ground to begin a subdued celebration. She is the first player to beat Venus three times in a row since Davenport beat her five times running between 1998 and 1999.

Serena was the first of the two sisters to capture a major championship, inspiring Venus to take two titles each at Wimbledon and at the U.S. Open. But the younger of the two began this season with the aim of rising to the top of women's tennis and returning to the winner's circle at the Grand Slams.

"I'm mentally a different person: I'm stronger, I seem to have more experience under my belt," said Serena, who read inspirational messages during the changeovers. "I don't know what the main turnaround point was. Maybe last year at Wimbledon when I lost (to Jennifer Capriati in the quarterfinals) -- it was a tough loss, it really was. I just sometimes wonder if I hadn't lost, would things be different?"

"It's great to see Serena doing well because for a while there she wasn't doing her best," Venus said. "I didn't think she was doing the best that she could do. So now I think she has to feel better that she's taken full advantage of her career."

One hour after their final showdown, the sisters played doubles against Russia's Anna Kournikova and American Chanda Rubin and advanced to the women's championship with a 6-7 (3-7), 6-0, 6-3 victory.

In a match suspended Friday due to rain, No. 28 David Nalbandian of Argentina completed a 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 1-6, 2-6, 6-2 victory over No. 27 Xavier Malisse of Belgium to become the first playing in the Open Era to reach the Wimbledon men's final on his tournament debut.

The 20-year-old from Cordoba needed only to win the final set Saturday to setup a championship meeting with world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia.

Nalbandian did one match better than John McEnroe, who produced the previous best performance by a debutant in the men's singles, reaching the semifinals in 1977 at 18 years old.

"This is the best week of my life," said Nalbandian, who won his first career title earlier this year at Estoril. "It's very great for me but I don't have too much time to enjoy it."

Nalbandian is only the second Argentine man ever to reach a Grand Slam final. Guilermo Vilas won four majors in eight final appearances, but never won at Wimbledon. A star junior player who reached the Boys' semifinals here, Nalbandian lost his only previous match against Hewitt.

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